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Volunteer Responder Incentive Act
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  Volunteer Responder Incentive Act  

Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act Introduced

On December 12, Representatives John Larson (D-CT) and Tom Latham (R-IA) introduced H.R. 3747, the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act (VRIPRA), which would exempt from income taxation all property tax benefits and up to $600 per year other types of benefits that volunteer emergency responders receive as a reward for their service. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Elizabeth Etsy (D-CT), Jim Gerlach (R-PA), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Ron Kind (D-WI), Peter King (R-NY), David Loesback (D-IA), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Michael Michaud (D-ME), James Moran (D-VA), Thomas Petri (R-WI), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), and Paul Tonko (D-NY) also signed onto H.R. 3747 as original co-sponsors.

“There is no greater challenge facing the volunteer emergency services today than recruitment and retention,” said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg. “The Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act will give local agencies and governments much-needed flexibility to implement incentive programs that work for their community. On behalf of the nation’s volunteer emergency response community I’d like to thank the sponsors and co-sponsors of this critical piece of legislation for their support.”

According to the U.S. Fire Department Profile Through 2012, a report published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are approximately 780,000 volunteer firefighters serving in 28,000 fire departments across the country, including 20,000 fire departments staffed by volunteers only. Another NFPA report estimated that the value of the time donated by volunteer firefighters in the United States is approximately $140 billion. 

Unfortunately, fire departments are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain the next generation of volunteers. Increased training and certification requirements have made volunteer emergency response an extraordinarily time-consuming activity, even as a variety of shifting societal factors have left fewer young people with less free time available in communities traditionally served by volunteers. The NFPA’s annual Fire Department Profile reports show a 16.4 percent drop in the number of firefighters under the age of 40 serving in communities of 2,500 or fewer residents since 2000. Overall, there are 44,000 fewer volunteer firefighters in the United States than there were just five years ago.

In order to bolster recruitment and retention, many volunteer fire and EMS agencies now provide financial and non-monetary incentives. These benefits can include uniforms, annual awards ceremonies, reduced property taxes, and other incentives that cost little but demonstrate the community’s support for the volunteer firefighter. Even modest rewards show volunteers that their service is valued by the community.

Federal taxation reduces the incentive value of volunteer benefits and creates a hardship on the jurisdictions that provide them. VRIPRA reduces the burdensome impact of federal taxation of volunteer benefits, enabling local agencies and governments to implement recruitment and retention strategies that work for their communities.

Companion legislation to H.R. 3747, S. 501, was introduced last March by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Susan Collins (R-ME). Click here to tell your U.S. Representative and Senators to co-sponsor VRIPRA using the NVFC’s Capwiz system.


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